Posts Tagged ‘sonoma_valley’

Small Vines Wines – High Denisty and Sustainable Wine Thinking

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Small Vines Wines vineyard

Small Vines Wines vineyard

We took a few days off to hit the wine country, no not Napa or Sonoma but rather the Russian River Valley. Keeping with our true nature, we explored and tasted our way through some of the more progressive thinking sustainable wineries in the region. We’ll start small and work our way up.

Small would mean Small Vines Wines. Like most others in the region vigneron Paul Sloan creates Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Small Vines grows on several small acre plots situated in Sebastopol and the vineyard that we visited takes up only about an acre but Sloan makes the most of his space. They use high density planting which seems to make sense but not many wineries use. Like high density Green building, doesn’t it seem logical to grow more grapes on less land? Why doesn’t everyone use this traditional technique used successfully for ages in Burgundy France? Because high density does not equal tractors, so mechanization doesn’t fit in the density style, thus the method (often like organic growing or biodynamic growing) remains labor intensive and more costly.

The high-density grapes need less compost because more nutrients can be found in the roots. More nutrients and less compost don’t just equal more sustainability but better wine quality as well. We sipped some pinot noir and chardonnay to be sure while Sloan mentioned how he views wine as a living entity and as an expression of place.

Unlike many wineries, we completely get how Sloan considers the whole picture when producing wines. Small Vines only produces a limited number of cases each year because if the operation gets too large Sloan said, “You lose your ability to be in tune with the whole system.” People often don’t understand or often abuse the term “sustainability” but considering the whole picture and caring about the Earth can’t be too far from what the meaning truly represents.

Photo by Valerie Summers

Going LEED Gold at the Gaia hotel

Friday, January 18th, 2008

gaia-go.jpgWe had heard a lot about the LEED Gold Gaia hotel in American Canyon (even we had to look up American Canyon and we live in San Fran) but we hadn’t actually visited it. Yes, we can only tell so much from a press release. The hotel, rather unassuming, sits right off busy Highway 29 just a short hop to both Napa and Sonoma Valley but once in the lobby or the rooms it’s not easy to hear any of the traffic. But onto the Green stuff. When checking in, it’s hard not to notice the kiosks with “green touch screens” which display how much water, electricity savings and how much CO2 the hotel emits. The overhead Solatube Tubular skylights represented an even more impressive aspect. Even on the cloudy day, the lobby had no artificial lighting, but you wouldn’t know it but the amount of natural light.

We got one of the choice rooms overlooking the man made lagoon which plays home to koi, frogs, various plant life and Artemis and Apollo (two impressive swans that live in the lagoon and strut their way around most of the hotel). By the way, the koi pond uses recycled water from the site which they clean and filter prior to entering the pond.

The sparten yet comfortable rooms offer lots of Green aspects. Small things like offering fair trade, organic coffee and not having those tiny shampoo bottles littering the bathroom made a big difference. Here they provide shampoo, lotion in bulk dispensers. We also like that all restrooms use recycled tiles and granite. While in the bathroom, we give wet kudos to the water saving low flow showerhead, which offer plenty of water pressure for one person (but not two, if you catch our drift).

We slept easy not only with a comfy, firm mattress but breathing easy with the low VOC paints were used throughout the rooms and rest of the hotel. It also helped us to know that solar panels provide 12% of the hotel’s electricity.

We know that a boutique type hotel needs a relaxing but unsustainable hot tub (yes, we partook and didn’t feel guilty) but we didn’t feel too keen about the microwave that inhabited our room but even with the little monster we felt pretty energized about our stay. It sure beats a stay in an unsustainable Motel 6.

We could very well come all the way to wine country without visiting some organic, sustainable and do we dare say biodynamic wineries. Stay tuned.